6 Most Picturesque Tiny Towns In Northern California

When you think of California; Los Angeles, Hollywood, and Disney Land may all immediately come to mind. However, there is much more to the Golden State than the landmarks in the South. Northern California, the region north of San Luis Obispo county and extending up to the Oregon border, is home to many picturesque towns. From wine country St. Helena to captivating, cliffside Mendocino, there are many tiny locales to discover along the coast, in the forests and the mountains of NorCal.


Sausalito in Marin County
Sausalito in Marin County. Image credit cdrin Shutterstock

Located in Marin County, California, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco is Sausalito. Artist squatters created this dazzling town after WWII. Today, it is a popular destination for Bay Area locals to experience romance and charm without having to venture too far from home. With a population of just over seven thousand people, it is easy to see why this town delivers a quaint and cozy vibe.

In addition to exploring shows and eateries downtown and seeing the nearby magnificent Muir woods monument, visitors can enjoy Battery Spencer. Discover its historical significance and take in the amazing views.


Carson Mansion in Eureka, California
Carson Mansion in Eureka, California. Image credit Jairo Rene Leiva via Shutterstock

Eureka, the main port city between Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco, California brings joy to those who visit – as its name implies. Home to just under 27 thousand people, this city holds an optimal balance of small-town comforts and an active economy.

Everywhere you look in Eureka, there are sights to soak in, from the towering Redwood trees and the Pacific Ocean to the Victorian-style buildings. Thanks to its rich art scene, Eureka also holds a lot of man-made beauty, with shops featuring pieces from local artisans, murals painted on city building walls, and, in the summer season, a street art festival.

St. Helena

Beringer Vineyards, a large winery in St. Helena
Beringer Vineyards, a large winery in St. Helena. Image credit David A Litman via Shutterstock

The ultimate destination for wine lovers, St. Helena, is set within California's Napa County and features vineyards as far as the eye can see. Outside of the vineyards, locals and tourists alike flock to the downtown streets, which maintain a historical influence and exhibit Spanish-style architectural details.

Despite a small population of just under 6,000, St. Helena attracts many visitors throughout the year. With a downtown filled with esteemed restaurants, galleries, and charming boutiques, you can dive into the art and culture of this quaint town.


California Coast in Mendocino
Coast line in Mendocino, California. Image credit Andrew Zarivny via Shutterstock

Few towns have as captivating of a natural landscape as Mendocino. Nestled into the cliffside with stunning seaside views, it is surprising the town is home to only 940 residents.

With the Redwood forests not far away, you can take a train ride through them from Mendocino to soak in all the region's beauty. Meanwhile, by the water, locals and visitors can take part in everything from kayaking, golf courses, and spas to visiting the only oceanfront botanical garden in the US. In town, Mendocino's past as a bustling logging destination in the 1800s shines through. Eateries and hotels still feature historically-inspired architecture.


A remote farm house in the countryside of Fortuna, California
​​A remote farm house in the countryside of Fortuna, California. Image credit Ashley Hadzopoulos via Shutterstock

One of the best towns to stop on your way to see Northern California's majestic Redwood forests is Fortuna. Nicknamed "the friendly city" since its earliest days in the 1800s, once you arrive in the 12,000-person town, you will soon see how it landed this moniker.

Fortuna is a particularly popular tourist destination in the summer, as it comes alive with a rodeo, beer festival, and chili cookoff. Visually, Fortuna has a Victorian-style historic appearance, with architecture that will make you feel transported in time.


Mt Konocti overlooking Clear Lake, California
Mt Konocti overlooking Clear Lake, California. Image credit Michael Overstreet via Shutterstock

When people think of picturesque waterside towns and cities in the state of California, those set along the coast of the Pacific Ocean are the first that may come to mind. However, California also has many beautiful lakes.

Known for being the city in California with the cleanest air, a visit to Lakeport is also good for the body. Visitors can participate in wine tastings, attend concerts in the park, visit farmers' markets, enjoy a plethora of activities on Clear Lake, and so much more in this quaint community.

While Lakeport has just over 5,000 permanent residents, the agricultural activities in the town attract many seasonal workers.


Northern California visitors and locals alike will enjoy visiting these idyllic towns on their next adventure. For those into hiking and exploring the wonders of nature, soak in the natural beauty of the Redwoods and Pacific Ocean coastline. For wine connoisseurs, try a sip of the local varieties in a vineyard town. Prefer to shop and discover historic buildings? Head downtown in any of these towns to support local businesses and marvel at Victorian-inspired architecture. The populations may be small in these Northern California towns, but the activities, charm, and beauty are in great supply.